Or in the case of the Queen Mary II, “they that go down to the sea in a really big ship.” Hundreds and hundreds of us! Taking a car service from Manhattan, I could see the ship from the Brooklyn Bridge; it loomed over the harbor. After trying to board through the baggage entrance, I managed to get on board. My cabin had a “sheltered balcony,” which made it look rather as if it might have been a cabin nearly a century ago. The cabin was luxurious enough for one and adequate for two, but on my level, you could get a third bedding arrangement for a child. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Without spending a fortune on continuous WiFi I cannot readily check the story that if the Queen Mary II were vertical, it would be as tall as the Empire State building. The last thing I want to see is the Queen Mary II vertical, I shall take this on faith. (Come to think of it, were I to see the Queen Mary II vertical, it probably would be the last thing I would see!) At any rate, it sails so smoothly that I didn’t realize we had left Manhattan behind.
I take breakfast in my stateroom; people in the morning are too cheerful to be easily countenanced. I am fortunate in that I have friends on board – a retired professor from Chapel Hill and his family. Actually, I should say “most of his family” – through a series of contretemps, not everyone made it on board. Fortunately, everybody has been located on land, but it was worrisome.
Lunch is pretty much ad hoc, though unless you have other arrangements, you are assigned a dinner table in the Britannia Restaurant for six or eight, unless your own party constitutes a table. This is always a bit fraught with peril. It will probably become even more perilous as time goes by – fewer and fewer dinner parties these days mean fewer and fewer opportunities to hone one’s general conversation skills. Of course, as a retired professor, I tend to forget that my tablemates may not particularly like lectures; come to think of it, neither did all of my students.
The meals on board are good and come in courses; I am not sure how many stars Michelin would give the Britannia Restaurant, but that and other venues for lunch or dinner are excellent. However, eating three full meals a day, not to mention occasional afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room, is not conducive to fitting into one’s clothes. I fear I may have to take my dinner jacket back to Mai at Macy’s in Orlando to let it out again just after she took it in!
We dress for dinner aboard ship at least three nights of the seven. One can get by with a lounge suit, or if you dislike dressing for dinner, you can skive off somewhere informal. I told the males in my classes not to argue if their womenfolk want them in a suit or tuxedo. These garments are hardly any more uncomfortable these days than the coat and tie men ought to wear to church on Sunday. More importantly, you will make the women happy. We are just the black-and-white background for them to show off their fancy clothes, which many of them like to do. If they like it, we should just suffer gladly. Not complaining will eventually pay off for us penguins.
The entertainment, including singers and dancers and actors, some from RADA, is good, though I am not sure I would want to make a career of it. I suppose the entertainers are hoping a movie or record contract will mean the next time they are board ship, it will be as celebrities. While this happens about as often as College athletes going professional, it is a pious hope for many of these young people, and I suppose it has to happen to someone. Good luck!
The Queen Mary II does not nickel and dime you; it quarters you. I have already run up a tab of several hundred dollars for wine and women; the song is free. I should say, “a woman” – my masseuse at the Canyon Ranch Spa. As the rate on ship is five or six times the rate in North Florida, I did not succumb to her blandishments for several more treatments before I disembark. I do not want my life en grand seigneur to end in the poor house.
The wine, too, is not included except at the Captain’s cocktail party. I declined to have my picture taken with him as I did not intend to buy any photos. Besides, I am waiting for him to want to have his picture taken with me.
The size of the ship means that I cannot entirely avoid exercise. In fact, until I dug out my old Rockport Pro Walkers, I raised a large blister on my right heel from my loafers just hoofing to the various restaurants and bars and entertainments. There are a good many free lectures and other events, though a good many of them have commercial tie-ins. I went to hear a lecture on Fabergé only to find the speaker flogging the products of Peter Carl’s grandson, Theo. I think I shall stick with Peter Carl.
Sailing in season is expensive; out of season it is a better value. Still, I am glad to have done it at least for one round trip. It is far more elegant than flying, even in First Class or Business, and if you have the time, I should think you can go one way for about the same as a business class ticket out of season. The fares no longer segregate you entirely from more plutocratic passengers, as they once did, and indeed the only hazard I have yet seen is to one’s waistline.